Senate Democrats reached majority status after the 2006 midterms and, defying the odds, held on to their majority for eight years. Now that they're in the minority, they're naturally looking to reclaim what they had.
By structural standards, Dems have reason for cautious optimism about the 2016 cycle. Though all kinds of factors will contribute to the outcomes, we know before a single vote is cast that the landscape does not tilt in the Republicans' favor: there will be 34 Senate races next year, and the GOP has to defend 24 of them. That's not easy under the best of circumstances.
But to take advantage of the opportunity, Dems will need the strongest possible candidates. Roll Call had a good piece yesterday noting that when it comes to candidate recruitment, Democrats are exactly where they want to be.
With New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan’s entrance into the Granite State Senate contest, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has secured nearly every top-tier recruit it sought for 2016 -- when Democrats will attempt to net the five seats necessary to regain control of the Senate.
Aside from Hassan in New Hampshire, the DSCC secured strong candidates in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The DSCC also scored wins with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s decision to run for Senate in Arizona, as well as three Democratic senators from red states forgoing gubernatorial bids in 2016.
It's not a perfect map for the party -- Dems have struggled to find a top-tier challenger in North Carolina -- but the Roll Call piece quoted one party strategist saying, "I think the DSCC pitched close to a perfect game on recruitment."
Some of the Democratic candidates who enjoy party backing still face primary campaigns, some of which may disrupt the DSCC's game plan, but if the party is going to have any chance of reclaiming the Senate majority in 2017, it will have to build a strong foundation.
And so far, Democrats have done that. The fact that the 2016 electorate will be larger and more diverse than the 2014 electorate only helps boost Dems' confidence.
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson commented yesterday on last week's mass-shooting in Oregon, subtly criticizing the victims of the mass murder for failing to respond to the crisis the way he imagines he would have.
“Not only would I probably not cooperate with [the armed madman], I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," the GOP candidate said yesterday morning. "I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'"
It was a callous display from a presidential candidate who has no idea how he'd respond to such a life-threatening crisis.
Yesterday afternoon, a reporter asked if he'd clarify his statement. "Okay," Carson replied. "What needs clarification?" The reporter added, "I guess there's an implication that you're saying that the students didn't do enough to save themselves."
Carson answered, "No, I just said nothing about that. I said what I would do."
On Fox News last night, Megyn Kelly asked Carson to elaborate further. According to the Fox transcript, the Republican said he's "laughing at" his critics and "their silliness."
CARSON: Of course, you know, if everybody attacks that gunman, he's not going to kill everybody. But if you sit there and let him shoot you one by one, you're all going to be dead. And you know, maybe these are things that people don't think about, it's certainly something that I would be thinking about.
KELLY: But don't you allow for that notion that in a time of great stress like that, one might not know exactly what to do. And to judge them, to sound like you're judging them --
B. CARSON: I'm not judging them at all, but, you know, these incidents continue to occur. I doubt that this will be the last one. I want to plant the seed in people's minds so that if this happens again, you know, they don't all get killed.
As a rule, when discussing the victims of a mass murder, I might recommend avoiding phrases such as, "I'm not judging them at all, but..."
By any fair measure, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is not popular among his Senate Republican colleagues. Indeed, once in a while, they make moves that suggest they actively dislike him, as was the case last week.
But the far-right senator is not without Capitol Hill allies. What's unusual is that Cruz has found his compatriots on the other side of the building. The Washington Examinerreported yesterday afternoon:
Sen. Ted Cruz will meet with a group of House Republicans one day before they're scheduled to vote for a new senior leadership team.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has invited the Texas Republican, leading presidential contender, to address his Conservative Opportunity Society at a Wednesday breakfast meeting. The agenda, according to the invitation, is "conservative strategy for the remainder of the year." Cruz has meddled in House affairs on several occasions, advising supportive insurgent Republicans in the chamber on key legislation and strategic matters.
The Texas Republican's office confirmed that Cruz planned to meet with House conservatives today -- just one day before House GOP members meet in private to nominate their choice for Speaker of the House.
Whether, and to what degree, Cruz intends to intervene in House affairs is not clear, but when the Washington Examiner said the senator has "meddled" in the lower chamber "on several occasions," that's no exaggeration.
1. Donald Trump: 27% (down two points from late August)
2. Ben Carson: 17% (up two points)
3. Marco Rubio: 13% (up six points)
4. Jeb Bush: 10% (up one point)
5. Ted Cruz: 7% (up one point)
6. Carly Fiorina: 6% (down two points)
7. Mike Huckabee: 4% (down one point)
7. John Kasich: 4% (down two points)
Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum are tied for ninth place with 2% each in the poll, while Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki are each at 1%.
The PPP analysis added, "Trump continues to lead with every subgroup of the GOP electorate."
A new Quinnipiac poll, meanwhile, shows Trump leading in Florida with 28% of the Republican vote, up seven percentage points from late August. The New York developer also leads in Ohio with 23%, up two points from five weeks ago, and Trump leads in Pennsylvania with 23%, down a point from late August.
In each of three battleground states, Ben Carson is in second place. In Florida, Jeb Bush is running fourth in the state he led for eight years.
Senator Amy Klobuchar talks with Steve Kornacki about her bill to make it harder for stalkers and domestic abusers to purchase guns, and whether there is enough flexibility among gun lobby-aligned members of Congress to pass a gun control bill no matter how narrow, targeted, and common sense it may be. watch
Jake Sherman, staff writer for Politico, talks with Steve Kornacki about the machinations taking place within the Republican Party to select a new speaker of the House, and the power of the party's right flank to disrupt the establishment while being too weak to put up a plausible candidate of their own. watch
E.J. Dionne, Jr., columnist for the Washington Post, talks with Steve Kornacki about a Politico article accusing Vice President Joe Biden of using how own son's death in a calculated, political way to set the stage for a presidential run. watch
* DOJ: "The Justice Department will grant early releases to about 6,000 federal inmates within weeks, the federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed Tuesday."
* More on this tomorrow: "Legislation that would set the nation’s defense policy overcame a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday despite a looming veto threat from the White House."
* South Carolina: "The deadly, record-smashing rainfall that soaked South Carolina may have finally passed, but the threat was far from over early Tuesday. Much of the state was still underwater, with more than 20 flooded rivers and 10 failed dams."
* Afghanistan: "With the United States struggling to account for an airstrike that decimated a Doctors Without Borders hospital, the American commander in Afghanistan on Tuesday took responsibility for the sustained bombardment of the medical facility, which he said took place in response to an Afghan call for help."
* Keep expectations low, Part I: "Senate Democrats are planning to unveil a new gun-control proposal on Thursday in the wake of a shooting at a community college in Oregon."
* Keep expectations low, Part II: "Russia offered Tuesday to resume talks with the United States on managing separate airstrike operations in Syria, even as the former Cold War foes bicker over Moscow’s objectives in the civil war."
* “Right now, if I was taking the advice of some of the members of Congress who holler all the time, we’d be in, like, seven wars right now,” President Obama said last month to a small group of veterans and Gold Star mothers of slain U.S. military personnel. He added, “I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been counting."
It may seem like ancient history, but 2013 wasn't that long ago. It was just two years ago that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), eager for any kind of major legislative accomplishment, co-wrote a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform package, helping make the young, far-right senator a prominent GOP voice on a major national issue.
Soon after, however, the Republican base decided the legislation constituted "amnesty," prompting the Floridian lawmaker to begin running away from his own failed initiative.
As Rubio's presidential campaign picked up, so too did the intensity of his shift to the right-wing cliff on immigration. Last week, the Senate Republican said policymakers shouldn't even begin to have a conversation about possibly considering a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants until 2027 -- after Rubio plans to have served two terms in the White House.
This week, the GOP candidate sat down with CNBC's John Harwood, and he continued to reject the ideas he used to support.
HARWOOD: You pushed that Senate bill that had a path to citizenship after a number of years that ended with people -- they had 10 years they could apply for a green card, right?
RUBIO: Right, some of them. Right. The ones that qualify.
HARWOOD: That's right, and you've said more recently you support letting them go for a green card still but no special path. As you know, the Senate bill had a special path... Do you still support that provision?
RUBIO: No, because we can’t pass it.
The senator added he's "convinced" that policymakers cannot address the immigration issue in one comprehensive package, which is itself a bizarre argument. Less than a year ago, a comprehensive solution enjoyed the support of the White House, a majority of the Senate, a majority of the House, a majority of the public, the Chamber of Commerce, labor leaders, reform advocates, law enforcement, and the faith community.
How can Rubio be "convinced" an idea is impossible when we already know how plainly possible it was as recently as 11 months ago? And more to the point, why should anyone take Rubio seriously on an issue when he goes out of his way to disagree with his own policy positions?
When Congress considered federal disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) voted against it. The right-wing lawmaker said at the time he didn’t “think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast.” Two years later, when it was his state that was hammered by flooding, Cotton reversed course, requesting and receiving emergency aid.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also voted against the Sandy-relief bill, though three years later, the Republican senator fought for federal funding for Texas in the wake of flooding.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “is asking for federal aid for his home state of South Carolina as it battles raging floods, but he voted to oppose similar help for New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2013,” CNN reports.
Said Graham: “Let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs.”
Asked to explain the discrepancy -- aid for his state, regardless of the price tag, but not Sandy victims -- the Republican senator and presidential candidate said he doesn't remember this part of his record. "I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said.
Pressed further during a CNN interview, he added, "I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did."
In the wake of the latest mass-shooting, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson appears to have been thinking a bit about gun violence, and the often ridiculous candidate has drawn some curious conclusions.
For example, Carson said yesterday that if he had a child in kindergarten, he'd feel better knowing there were loaded firearms in the classroom. “If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t," the GOP candidate said.
Last night on Facebook, Carson added, "As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies. There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking -- but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Serious people seek serious solutions."
To date, the retired right-wing neurosurgeon has offered no solutions, serious or otherwise, to combating gun violence. On the contrary, he's begun rejecting solutions he used to support.
But Politicoflagged Carson's comments on Fox News this morning, where the GOP candidate was in rare form, first complaining about President Obama traveling to Oregon to meet with grieving families and a recovering community, then indirectly criticizing the victims of the mass murder.
Asked what he would have done had a gunman walked up to him and asked him to state his religion, Carson said he would have been more aggressive.
"Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me, I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all,'" he told the hosts.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In New Hampshire's closely watched U.S. Senate race, a new WMUR poll shows a very close contest, with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) narrowly leading Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), 45% to 43%.
* Despite a wide variety of controversies in his background, Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu (R) is launching a congressional campaign, hoping to succeed Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.).
* In Florida's U.S. Senate race, the Libertarian Party's candidate had acknowledged participating in an unusual pagan ritual. "I did sacrifice a goat.... I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness," Augustus Sol Invictus said. He added, "Yes, I drank the goat's blood."
* In Maryland, Joel Rubin, "the State Department's point person for the House of Representatives, working to build support for the Obama administration's Iran nuclear accord," announced he's running for Congress.
* Donald Trump's campaign team has hired new aides in Virginia, Texas, and Florida, which staffers for the candidate consider proof "that the real estate mogul will remain in the race for the duration."
* To the surprise of no one, former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie announced that he will, in fact, run for governor in 2017.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.